Biblical Narratives in the Handmaid’s Tale


In 1985, Canadian author Margaret Atwood published a dystopian novel that portrayed a terrifying vision in which the main character and narrator, Offred, explains the world in which she lives: Gilead, a totalitarian state controlled by a male military elite. The novel shows how religious and political extremism fuels social inequality, censorship, and the restriction of individual rights. An examination of the biblical narratives in the work offers a critical analysis of the role of religion and its politics in the formation of these cultural structures in the West. In this study, I examine the hermeneutic dimension of the Bible in the Handmaid’s Tale. Utilizing an exegetical, ethical-philosophical analysis that focuses on the role of religion and particularly the role of the biblical narrative – the foundational text of Western culture – as a source of patriarchy in the West for centuries, I reveal the biblical narratives on which the work is based. The woman as a handmaid is a central motif in the work; Atwood reminds us that we can find this motif of the woman as a handmaid also in the cultural tradition of the West based on the handmaids of the Bible. Exposing the origin of cultural narratives in the context of attitudes towards women in the history of the West contributes to our critical thinking regarding contemporary patterns of thought in Western culture in general and in Judaism in particular.


Bina Nir
A lecturer , Department of Multidisciplinary Studies, The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, Israel


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


The Politics of Religion


Biblical Narratives, The Handmaid’s Tale, Western culture, Judaism

Digital Media

This presenter hasn’t added media.
Request media and follow this presentation.